Monthly Archives: May 2012

Additive Manufacturing and 3D Printing – The Next Industrial Revolution

The digital revolution has had a massive impact on many industries, from retail, to news, to IT services. It is about to change manufacturing out of all recognition.  This change will result from the process of additive manufacturing or 3d printing. The NBN is a key enabler as 3d printing will result in thousands of large design files being downloaded and sent to 3d printers across Australia.

3D printing or additive manufacturing is a process of making three dimensional solid objects from a digital file. 3D printing is achieved using additive processes, where an object is created by laying down successive layers of material. 3D printing is considered distinct from traditional machining techniques (subtractive processes) which mostly rely on the removal of material by drilling, cutting etc. (Definition from Wikipedia).

The Economist Magazine has run a number of articles on 3d printing in 2012, predicting that 3d printing will cause a third industrial revolution.

“Three-dimensional printing makes it as cheap to create single items as it is to produce thousands and thus undermines economies of scale. It may have as profound an impact on the world as the coming of the factory did….Just as nobody could have predicted the impact of the steam engine in 1750—or the printing press in 1450, or the transistor in 1950—it is impossible to foresee the long-term impact of 3D printing. But the technology is coming, and it is likely to disrupt every field it touches.”  The Economist, in a February 10, 2011 leader

(The report led with the caption “Print me a Stradivarius”  and a picture of a Stradivarius violin that had been 3d printed http://www.economist.com/node/18114327 ).

In April 2012 it ran a full report on 3d printing available here: http://www.economist.com/node/215529013. One prediction in the report was that some of the business of making things will return to rich countries. The technology will have enormous consequences for Australian manufacturing and as such the Hume RDA organised a trip for local businesses to the RMIT Centre for Advanced Manufacturing. During the tour the group were shown 3d printers and prototypes. Below is a short video from the tour shot on a handheld camera. It includes footage of prototypes printed in titanium!
[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VOwi0s75hgE&w=560&h=315]
What does 3d printing mean for the Hume Region and how can we start preparing?

Wangaratta Gateway Hotel Embraces The Digital Economy

Website: http://wangarattagateway.com.au

The Wangaratta Gateway Hotel is privately owned and operated by the  Jones Hotel Group. It is known for its personalised service, stylish accommodation and superior facilities. Located in the heart of Wangaratta, the 4.5 star hotel boasts 76 accommodation suites and apartments, the largest north east Victorian conference venue and event facilities and a stylish restaurant. For 20 years, Wendy Lester has owned and operated the hotel. Not only has she undertaken a large physical extension to the facility (in 2008) but she has also extended the Hotel’s presence online. She recently told us about her experiences.

Tell us about your market and customers
Our 5 major markets are Corporate, Leisure, Conference, Groups and Functions. Our customers are largely corporates, and we have a very high percentage of return customers. Our clients are mainly from Melbourne and regional Victoria including locals.

What are your Key Challenges?
A major challenge is keeping up with the technology that our clients experience in City locations. The expectation from clients is that we offer the same services as our city competitors. To do this we must embrace web technologies and the digital economy.

What web technologies are you using in the business?

  • Our Website, http://wangarattagateway.com.au is the central hub of our online presence. It allows clients to book rooms directly, to purchase gift vouchers, send e-postcards, and to join our mailing list. We are also on many 3rd party websites for reservations which we manage via a channel manager (Levart)
  • Google Analytics to track activity on the website
  • We use webinars for online training (example software include GoToMeeting.com and Webex.com)
  • Review sites such as Tripadvisor.com
  • We have an iPhone application that is linked to our Property Management System (PMS)
  • We use the Choice Hotels Online University  for training
  • We are currently developing a social media strategy to allow us to start strategically using tools like Facebook

What benefits have you gained from using these tools?
We have seen a  massive increase in online bookings (as with the rest of the industry). We get better rate parity and we can promote last room availability. We can promote a room on 30 different sites and when the room is sold  it is removed from all sites. Our booking tool also allows to move rates around a lot more, ensuring we optimise our pricing.

How do you plan to use high speed broadband in your business when the high-speed broadband arrives?
Anything that increases our speed will be great for us as well as our clients. I think our conference market will see the most benefit.

What advice do you have for other businesses who want to maximise their use of web technologies?
Make sure you develop and update your site on a regular basis.

Do you run a business in the Hume Region that uses the internet effectively? Send us your insights and opinions.

What we can do with high speed broadband

The video below was shot at the NBN Discovery on the 11th of May during the visit of the Hume RDA delegation. The footage shows how highspeed broadband will assist with health issues and also how good video conferencing will be for all of us in the near future!

No excuses for businesses not to get online

Businesses who have put off getting a website no longer have an excuse. Google and MYOB will get you online for free.

The http://www.gettingbusinessonline.com.au website promises businesses with an ABN:

  • free customisable website for 1 year
  • free .com.au web address for 2 years
  • free e-commerce functionality for 1 year
  • $75 free Google advertising trial with expert phone support

Wodonga ski shop embraces ecommerce to drive new business

Paul Oberin opened Paul’s Ski Shop back in 1979. He talks about his experience developing an online store.

Tell us about your business.

The business was started on a small budget in a seasonal business that relied on good snowfalls, as well as good economic times.

Paul Ski Shop - 50% of retail business now done online

Paul Ski Shop – 50% of retail business now done online

Initially we hired snow ski equipment during the winter, but we then branched out into into water sports equipment and we are now open all year round. Prior to the internet we relied 99% on the local market and did ok in good years, struggled in bad snow years or when the weir was down to below 12%.

Launching my online shop saw a huge change to our customer base as my customer base was now Australia-wide and even though many of the locals now shop online and my bricks and mortar shop is quieter with walk in traffic, we are doing well online.

I see my biggest challenge is keeping my prices low enough to get the sale, yet keeping profit high enough to afford the promotion of the online shop, it is a fine line, and the goal posts keep moving.

What web technologies do you use in the business?

We use an online shop to sell our products online. Our shopping cart along with PayPal allows us to process all of our payments online.

As we also do specialised boot fitting, ski hire and snow tours, so our site contains pages with detailed information on these services.

I need to be able to make changes almost every hour of every day, so first of all I had to have control of the domain for my website, I had to find and learn to use file transfer software, image editing software, and to a small degree how to write code (initially in HTML now I use Php to make minor changes). The benefit of learning these tools is that I keep costs down as I don’t have to pay a web developer everytime I make a change. It also means I can make changes to products and prices often and promptly many times every day. This is crucial as the website must contain accurate and uptodate information in order to maintain the trust of customers.

I understand my business better than anyone else, so therefore I am the right person to make these changes.

How do you plan to use high speed broadband in your business when the NBN arrives?

Higher speeds will offer me many advantages, the main one will be managing my online shop much more efficiently due to the quicker speeds. In addition with faster speeds I can offer video clips instead of photos for my ski equipment tuning section, and my ski boot fitting.

My shop security system, runs off a web-based monitoring system. However the images are low quality and high speed broadband means greatly improved images and flow of motion, meaning better security for my business.

I use email now as my main method of contact between my suppliers and also my customers. Sending pictures or getting images of product is very slow at present – with the NBN this will no longer be an issue.

What advice do you have for other businesses who want to maximise their use of web technologies?

  • Get a lot of good advice before jumping in.
  • Speak to similar businesses that have a system in place that works well
  • Do not wait until NBN is here, you can still get many benefits right now and will also be more aware of what can be done, when the faster speeds are here.

I am currently doing around 50% of my retail sales online. A huge number of retail outlets in Australia do not even have an online shop. They are missing out on a lot of business in my opinion.

We welcome thoughts and comments on this and other case studies.
Do you know any other businesses using the internet effectively? Complete the case study form and we will review their case study with a view to publication on this blog.

Dr Tim Williams – Thoughts on a Digital Strategy for Hume

Dr Tim Williams of Arup, who is working with the Hume Region on the development of the Digital Economy Strategy talks about what he thinks the project means for the region.

Want to have your say? Attend one of the upcoming consultations being run by Tim and/or Kate Walters.
Monday, 7th May 2012, 10.30am to 1.30pm at the Rural City of Wangaratta, Council Chambers, Level 1, 62 Ovens St, Wangaratta
Friday, 11th May 2012, 10.30am to 1.30pm, City of Wodonga, Committee Room, 104 Hovell St, Wodonga

Tim Williams is recognised as one of the country’s leading thinkers about high speed broadband and the impact of digital media on communities, public services and business. His ground-breaking report, ‘Connecting Communities: the impact of broadband in the UK and its implications for Australia’ was launched at the Nation Press Club in Canberra in February 2011.

Kate Walters is a Senior Consultant at Arup. As an experienced team leader, Head of Policy and project manager in both the Government and private sector, Kate has worked on a range inter-related social, environmental and economic policy issues that aim to create thriving, liveable and sustainable urban areas. Kate has strong strategic understanding of economic development and placemaking and is an experienced facilitator. Tim and Kate very much appreciate your attendance at the workshops and see it as crucial to the successful delivery of the Hume Digital Economy Strategy.

NBN announced rural areas in Hume to receive fixed wireless from mid-2015

On 3oth April 2012, NBN Co announced the areas in the North East Region of Victoria to receive high speed fixed wireless broadband from mid 2015.

The fixed wireless network will deliver high speed broadband to homes and businesses at wholesale speeds up to 150 times faster than dial-up and up to eight times faster than ADSL.

“For decades, rural and regional Australia has been left behind when it comes to telecommunications,” said NBN Co stakeholder relations advisor Tony Gibbs.“NBN Co’s plan to deliver high speed broadband to every Australian with one network utilising three technologies, fibre, fixed wireless and satellite aims to change that,” he said.

The communities, which cover seven local government areas, Alpine Shire Council,  Indigo Shire Council, Moira Shire Council, Toowong Shire Council, Wangaratta Rural City Council and Wodonga City Council and East Gippsland Shire Council (not in the Hume Region).

“Today’s announcement is tremendous news for these communities, many of which have little or no access to high speed broadband, or those confined to a limited service, such as dial-up, mobile or satellite,” Mr Gibbs said. “The fixed wireless network will cover around 7,500 premises and will be switched on from mid 2015 onwards. Faster, more reliable internet will deliver speeds and services that city people take for granted. It will also mean telehealth consultations, video conferencing, interactive lessons and live collaboration with teachers and students here and abroad can become a reality.”

“To put 12Mbps fixed wireless speeds into perspective, people in the fixed wireless area who are currently on dial-up will receive speeds up to 150 times faster, on ABG satellite up to 12 times faster and ADSL up to eight times faster.*

The communities in the North East region of Victoria, receiving fixed wireless from mid 2015 are:

  • Allans Flat
  • Area surrounding  Mt Beauty township
  • Area surrounding  Wodonga city
  • Area surrounding Baranduda township
  • Area surrounding Beechworth township
  • Area surrounding Chiltern township
  • Area surrounding Cobram township
  • Area surrounding Corryong township
  • Area surrounding Myrtleford township
  • Area surrounding Rutherglen township
  • Areas surrounding Wangaratta city
  • Barnawatha
  • Bellbridge
  • Benambra
  • Bethanga
  • Bundalong
  • Dederang
  • Ebden
  • Eldorado
  • Everton
  • Glenrowan
  • Kiewa
  • Milawa
  • Moyhu
  • Omeo
  • Oxley
  • Peechelba
  • Springhurst
  • Stanley
  • Strathmerton
  • Tungamah
  • Wandiligong

Are you living in one of these areas?  How do your expect your local community will embrace high speed broadband? Leave your comments below.